AF Diary #14
WRESTLING (but not really)
Someone asked the question. So here’s the answer. Wrestling? I honestly don’t have any interest in it right now and it’ll probably take something special to draw me back in. In 2013 when I returned from a three year hiatus that was a double whammy of New Japan and NXT. I don’t feel a strong affinity for either anymore. My beloved BritWres scene has basically gone. I do wish many people in wrestling the best because they’ll need help in repairing what wrestling is.
Shout outs to the wXw crew (Avalanche, Rotation and Dragan especially but also CMJ, Tas, Dennis, Katja etc). You always made me feel very welcome. Good luck as well to Chris Brookes who’s taken his own path and if I was going to watch a promotion right now it would be DDT because they understand how to properly mock wrestling yet also present it as important.
I’m sad I won’t get to see out the European Wrestling podcast series with Mike Kilby and JP. That was some of the best audio I’ve ever been a part of. Shout out to Bodyslam in Denmark and White Wolf in Spain for helping with questions. Carlos Romo in particular for the latter. I wish him all the best. Great worker, hugely underused. Also a shout out to Daniel Makabe. I don’t interview people, really, on the whole but I made an exception with Dan and didn’t regret it. He’s a lovely bloke and I hope wrestling is able to give back to him like he’s given to it.
Shout outs to my other frequent podcast collaborators; Aqeel for ArnoldFurious.com and Rob & Oli for the BritWres Roundtable. It’s been a pleasure.
As I’ve said before it’s not the end here. I may come back. There may be another new generational version of Ishii vs. Shibata that draws me back in. I’m almost certain to go to a show at some point when the Covid blows over because I miss people. There are way too many people to name in that respect but you know who you are. If I’ve ever spoken to you at a show or, more importantly, shared a beer with you before a show I miss you. We’ll meet again. Will I care about the show itself? Absolutely not. We’ve talked about meeting up in some capacity and I’m all up for that. Got ideas? DM me.
FOOTBALL MANAGER – PORTO 2035
Rio Ave 0 Porto 1
Rio Ave are an affiliate so one of their players is unavailable because they play for Porto. Our side featured new loanee winger Jhon Hurtado and KT returned to fitness on the left wing. Just kidding, he went off injured again. Hurtado’s cross was headed in by Azard Harte. We had no highlights until the 73rd minute. Performances are, frankly, poor but at least we keep winning.
IN: Jhon Hurtado. A loan deal that provides cover on the right wing.
OUT: Francois Grange. My second string AMR, who has been terrible in every game I’ve played him in. Gladbach decide he’s worth £15.25M. Who am I to argue? I’m not selling away the future of the club or anything (starting winger is 33) as they’ve got a wonderkid coming through in this position who should be ready next season.
IN: Guillermo Bravo! I almost hope I blow the title so I get to use him. He’s signed for next season because he’s out of contract at Barca.
IN: Speaking of Barca, they’ve loaned me Cedric Kinsombi, who was a starter when I was at Barca. He plays in central midfield where we are lacking a bit of class. He’s 25 years old, in his prime, and if he could run with the ball he’d be a target for Man City not Porto. Is he better than all my current midfield players? Yes, yes he is.
IN: Adrien Mercier. He’s a freebie from Milan. Plays AMC and costs nothing. Doesn’t join us until next season but an able replacement for Moreau, who is leaving.
OUT: Justin Moreau. I signed him on a free in the summer and Sampdoria have paid me £10.5M. the January window makes teams do desperate things. I would have accepted less, frankly.
OUT: Gianluigi Venturi. He’s gone to Roma, amazingly, and they’ve offered to take him permanently in the summer for about £400k. Good riddance!
OUT: Olly Still goes on loan to PEC Zwolle. Olly is terrible and is probably gone on a free in the summer.
IN: Matthijs de Ligt? No, I couldn’t afford his wages. Would have been nice to bring him in though, even at 35.
IN: Joan Moratella? No. He opted to play for Atletico Madrid instead. I can’t say I blame him but he would have been a difference maker. Striker in his prime years and only not playing regular football because he’s employed at the same club as Aniol Barbera.
Porto 4 Feirense 0
Feirense seem to be quite good. They’re in third. Vinicius Jr decides to have their right back on toast. Scores two, assists sub Bruno Pinho on a third goal and then kicks back as Peter Jackson smashes in a fourth deep in stoppage time. This game went 94 minutes. Not quite the lengthy epic we normally expect from Jackson but he did leave it late. Is this the Kinsombi Factor in full flow? Not really as he was crap first half and has no idea what all the Portuguese lads are talking about.
Porto 4 Academica 0
Taca de Portugal QFs. Happy with the result here. Jeff and Vinicius Jr both net twice. More importantly; Benfica got beaten by Sporting. They’re out! This leaves Sporting, Portimonense and Rio Ave! Result. Post match I’m asked about a ‘controversial disallowed goal’; which Academica scored in the 88th minute, was definitely not a goal and would have made it 4-1 not 4-0. Controversy reigns!
Famalicao 0 Porto 0
They had a player sent off and went very defensive. Everyone seemed to have an off day and nothing happened. No clear cut chances. Nothing.
OUT: Enes Coppens is going to China in the summer. I’m sad he’s leaving but he is 33.
IN: Ruben Neves. Ha, yes that one. He’s 37. He’s retiring in the summer and cost £775k. It’s perhaps not my greatest moment in the transfer market.
Rio Ave 1 Porto 3
League Cup semi. I’m aware I’ve got the final in two days but also need to field a team that can win. Tricky balance but I manage to rest ST, AML, AMR, DM, one central mid, one centre back and both full backs. Plus I subbed Kinsombi and Viera at half time. After the game is over they decide it’s Sunday not Saturday so at least there’s that. It’s still Benfica though.
Benfica vs. Porto
Portuguese League Cup final. First chance for silverware. Thanks to shuffling the deck against Rio Ave I’ve got a very strong team for this one. Only Lange misses out due to poor fitness and I probably wouldn’t have picked him anyway. First half goes badly. I’ve jiggled the formation a bit and tried to give them respect. Doesn’t work. They’re 2-0 up at the break. Cazorla again, making me regret never taking him to Anderlecht and Max Wouters. I switch things up at half time, push them forward a bit more, up the tempo, give them a bit of creative freedom. Two minutes later Vinicius Jr has us back in it. 2-1. We then outplay them for the entire second half but miss every gilt edged opportunity. In a way, it’s worse than just getting obliterated. For the second half we deserved to win and got nothing. Azard Harte’s inability to finish off our moves is beginning to frustrate me. £18M he cost. £18M! 2-1 Benfica. Number of finals against Benfica this season – 2. Number of trophies won – 0.
It’s almost closed. Here are some more wacky transfer deals.
IN: Igor Moreno. On loan from Real Madrid. I’ve signed players from Real Madrid before and it never works but this lad is on loan and he’s actually good. Behind Kinsombi he’s now my best midfielder. It also gives us depth in the central midfield for the first time this season.
IN: Adonis Berisha. Swiss pressing forward. I considered signing Mason Greenwood too but Berisha fits the system better. Ideal replacement for Azard Harte, who, despite being a striker, doesn’t score goals.
IN: Not the young left back I had lined up to replace my existing left back who I’ve agreed to sell as he decided Porto suck and he’s gone to Russia instead. Russia!
OUT: Alfredo Torres. £22M for our starting left back who’d decided he wanted to go to Wolfsburg. It’s shit, mate. You’ll hate it there.
IN: Gustavo Martin? My left back at Ajax. He wasn’t great but he’ll do in a pinch. Nope, he’s signed for Malaga.
IN: Ben Rice. Deadline day, on loan from Middlesbrough, left back. Is he any good? Eh, he’ll do. He’ll be good cover if nothing else.
National da Madeira 0 Porto 1
As the game starts I look at the starting line up and only two of them were at the club when I took over. For a single season project there’s been a lot of churn. Four of the starting eleven are here on loan. Vinicius Jr scores the winner. He’s nearly in double figures and the goals from him and Coppens are helping because the strikers aren’t scoring. Haland has a stinker here and Berisha, coming off the bench, isn’t really fit.
Porto 0 Boavista 0
Well, this sucked. Not one single highlight. Nothing happened. It’s a terrible result with Benfica breathing down our collective necks. We had 14 shots but I didn’t see any of them. To make matters worse Benfica win 4-1 and go top. Make no mistake about it, this could be a fatal mistake in our title campaign.
Sporting 2 Porto 1
McNally is back! Sporting exploit his jetlag with an early free kick. Hurtado somehow misses an open goal. The season is coming off the rails. Azard Harte has two one-on-ones and misses them both. Again. That’s only the fifth defeat against Sporting since the simulation started. It’s an absolute disaster and the season is basically over. Am I exaggerating?
Last season; Benfica lost one league game and won the league on goal difference. The season beforehand Benfica lost zero league games and won the league comfortably. The season before Benfica lost three games and Porto won the league. This was Porto’s third league defeat. The season is over. Benfica even threw us a bone here and lost two games but they won’t lose a third. Unless we beat them and we probably won’t. If you’ve never played the Portuguese league it’s basically a two-horse race. At this rate the best I can hope for is a cup win and not getting sacked.
Porto 1 Valencia 1
I really didn’t want to play in Europa League and thanks to my busy January player registration was basically hell and I left it up to the AI as to who was registered. Amazingly no one kicked off about it. Not registered are: Kinsombi, Lange, Moreno, Schouten, Haland, Berisha and Clemente. Jiri Kraut is suspended so the team basically picks itself. I have no options at all. To sum up this game in one highlight; we play out nicely from the back, long ball to Vinicius Jr, to the byline, cuts it back and Harte blazes over. Five minutes later they score and that’s the end of Europe. Vinicius Jr wins us a pen and thankfully Harte doesn’t take it. Coppens from the spot. 1-1.
Porto 1 Vit. Guimaraes 0
Pre-match I’m told Guimaraes are favourites here. What the fuck? It turns out their form is brilliant. We also lost at their gaff earlier in the season. The strikers seem to have forgotten how to score but the midfield is still contributing. Bruno Pinho scored a screamer here.
Azard Harte. Signed for £18M and supposedly the ideal striker for us he’s failed to impress. 20 games, 4 goals. Last goal – January 6.
Erling Haland. Looked like the early season solution. 27 games, 14 goals. Hasn’t scored since December.
Fabio Clemente. Well aware he’s ‘one for the future’ at 17. 10 games, 4 goals. Hasn’t scored in ages.
Adonis Berisha. The potential solution. Isn’t fit. Hasn’t started a game yet. Last goal was in November for Switzerland. Last club goal was in September. 3 games, 0 goals.
Valencia 3 Porto 1
Evan McNally seems to think it would be a whizzer idea to pass the ball directly to their striker (Gerald Holtkamp, Holland) and give him a free goal. Sure, why not? They had an away goal anyway. Fuck it. Given the confidence boost Holtkamp nabs a second. The home game was pretty even but Valencia end up wiping the floor with Porto here. Some good news though; Harte actually scored! An actual striker scored a goal. First in nearly two months.
P. Ferreira 0 Porto 3
Goal machine Azard Harte goes from strength to strength here. He even drilled a one-on-one straight past the keeper. It’s a miracle! First half hat-trick. Promise finally fulfilled. Proof as well that a meaningless goal in Europe can stimulate confidence.
Now, the title race is back in our hands. We play Benfica later. If we win that game and every other game, the title is ours. Haha! It’s not happening is it? As if to emphasise the difference between our two teams Benfica smash Guimaraes 4-0 at their place, where we lost 4-2 earlier in the season.
Southampton have, in this save, been incredible. They’ve broken into the Top Four, came minutes away from a league title win and are establishing themselves as a top European force. And finally they’ve got a trophy to show for it; the Carabao Cup in 2035.
Porto 3 Gil Vicente 0
Absolutely bossed this one. Harte again, Viera (promising central defender) and KT on the score sheet. At 2-0 up at HT my team talk was “not today, not to Old Gil”. They saw it out. A shame form is emerging just after we’ve pissed away the lead.
Portimonense 1 Porto 6
Semi-final first leg of the Taca de Portugal. Do we have to play these jobbers again? Absolute massacre. We had a couple chalked off for offside. KT ran riot here. Kinsombi scored a screamer. Everyone was phenomenal. I felt this would be an easy game but even so, it was a cake walk.
Academica 1 Porto 1
What the fuck was this? Academica had two shots on target. We had 15. They went ahead, somehow. We managed to miss a penalty and only got a draw because Bruno Pinho scored a peach in the 87th minute. I am going to get sacked. If Porto finish third in the league I’m done.
KT is out for 4 months. Some sort of hip injury. It’s March so he’s finished. He’ll never play for Porto again. I have no left winger now because Vinicius Jr has a virus, which has put him out of action for over two weeks.
As I’m eulogizing the season Benfica somehow lose away at Old Gil. Fuck. If we’d beaten fucking Academica we’d be level again. Why are we so inept? Benfica are having their worst season since 2025/26 and we’re still second.
Porto 0 Santa Clara 0
Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off. All Porto. Santa Clara park the bus. Another goalless draw.
Our league record since mid-January is now
P9 W4 D4 L1
Four fucking draws. Boavista, which caused the board to complain about my performance because result was so bad. Famalicao where they had a player sent off and we still couldn’t score. Academica, which was horseshit. And now this one; Santa Clara. This might be the worst of the lot! Santa Clara are one of the worst teams in the league. We had three highlights. A corner headed over, a free kick wide and one chance from open play off target. They had none, because THEY HAD NO FUCKING SHOTS. NONE!
Estonia 0 Spain 5
Euro Qualifiers. If this is 0-0 I may just abandon the save. It’s corrupted. Spain 6-1 ON favourites. Juan Perez scores twice while constantly complaining that his ankle is bruised and he wants to come off. There’s a sensational Puskas level own goal to follow and strikes from Pepe and Rioja. However Ramos, a striker allegedly, didn’t score and indeed missed a penalty. He has incredible stats but he’s never scored for my Spain.
Spain 0 Austria 0
Euro Qualifiers. Austria are the second best side in the group. Austria parked the bus and came for a draw. There was one highlight, from open play, with Moises shooting wide. That was it. Very disappointing. I’m used to disappointment this season though.
Ac. Viseu 0 Porto 3
We’re odds on, again, but I don’t trust the bookies. I’ve opted for a switch in tactic to the double diamond. We’re already controlling games so that’s not the issue. The issue seems to be that we’re too predictable. Hence the switch. Due to a midfield injury crisis Psycho Balde comes in to partner Jeff. Kinsombi is the fittest of the rest of them at 74% The international break knackered everyone out. Azard Harte turns in a Peter Jackson cross after 12 minutes and the tactical gambit has paid off. Adonis Berisha nets too. This formation seems to benefit the forwards, even if they’re getting less wing service. Saico Balde scores a sensational third from a long way out. Don’t go getting excited here, Ac. Viseu are second from bottom.
Porto 2 Chaves 0
This was extremely comfortable, 24-1 on shots. 13-0 on target. The formation does control games. Harte nets twice here. He’s about to become leading scorer.
Porto 0 Benfica 1
This is the best we’ve played against Benfica. We lost because it was 0-0 and we were having half chances so I pushed up and went for it and they hit us on the counter and scored. If only Fabio Clemente had netted a one-on-one. That’s the benefit of having an outstanding goalkeeper in Adriano Teixeira. He’s basically won them the title. A much better showing but we’re not winning the title this year.
Braga 1 Porto 2
This is suddenly very important. Braga have moved into second place. A loss here and Porto are totally fucked. Azard Harte nets again and the keeper makes a good save to prevent him scoring a second. We were a bit dodgy second half but Bruno Pinho pops up with a late winner. Finally, Porto are coming good.
Porto 1 Portimonense 0
Taca de Portugal semi-final second leg. For those who can’t be bothered to scroll up; we won the first leg 6-1. In what appeared to be a warning; Portimonense won their last league game 5-0. Forgotten man Erling Haland popped up here with his first goal in months. 15 on the season now. The final is in June. Bloody June! Who plays football in June?
Porto 2 Portimonense 0
Kinsombi scored the opener here. I’m still dumbfounded I got a player of his quality on loan. Barca, who are not doing well in the league btw, are mad to let him join me. Moreno, another insanely good player, gets the second with a pen. It’s his first since joining on loan from Real in January. 2-0, back above Braga in the league. Job done.
Belenenses SAD 0 Porto 2
Adonis Berisha opens the scoring. The striker crisis is officially over and he bags the second too. The first is down to a beautiful over the top ball from Azard Harte but the second is all Adonis! It was needed as Belenenses had hit the post twice.
Porto 4 Rio Ave 0
Every highlight in this game started with Bruno Pinho stealing the ball from one of their players. He was on fire. Goossens volleyed in at the back post for 1-0, Kinsombi added a second, Pinho himself grabbed the third before a very late Berisha goal made it look like a battering.
Benfica have won the league.
Feirense 0 Porto 2
Feirense are fourth and a surprise package. They have some good players but the shithousery tactic is too much for them and Adonis Berisha nets twice. Easy win! If only we’d been playing like this all season. We have qualified for the Champion’s League and the board are now unlikely to fire me. So, that’s nice.
Porto 3 Famalicao 1
I blood a few youngsters here. Fabio Clemente opens the scoring by rounding the keeper. It’s been a while since I saw one of those! Kinsombi smashes in number two and Famalicao are on the beach. Clemente gets a penner for 3-0 and they get a late consolation. Clemente could be starting games regularly next season. He’s got a ton of promise. He’s still only 17.
A few cup finals; Real Madrid beat Amiens to win the Europa League. Their first since 1986. West Brom win the FA Cup final, beating Middlesbrough and yes that’s still weird in 2035. Bayern beat Man Utd 2-1 to win the Champion’s League. Part of me wishes I’d stayed another season at Bayern to take a run at CL glory. Hopefully it’ll come later.
Porto 1 Sporting 0
Taca de Portugal final. Last chance saloon to win a trophy this year. We competed in six tournaments but so far, fuck all wins. We play our shithousery tactic and it works to perfection. We break up the play, nothing gets going and it’s a scrappy mess of a final with Harte scoring the winner; heading in a Bruno Pinho corner. A trophy! Finally.
Some of the collapses around Europe are stunning this year. Amiens were four points clear of PSG at the start of April with two games in hand. PSG won the league. Arsenal blew a nine point lead in April and drew their final game to let Man City in the back door. Inter topped all that though. They needed one point from their last three games to win the league and lost all three games. Finished third! Astonishing bottle job.
So that’s the season completed. We won one trophy but at least we won one trophy and knocked something off the list. We’ll have to come back stronger next year and gun for Benfica and the top spot. Here are some stats:
- Azard Harte 15
- Erling Haland 15
- Jeff 10
- Bruno Pinho 10
- Enes Coppens 9
- Vinicius Jr 9
Haland scored one goal in the second half of the season. He’s starting to show his age. Harte came good in the end. I’m pleased with the number of midfield goals from Jeff and Pinho, which came when we switched up the formation.
- Enes Coppens 12
- Vinicius Jr 12
- Bruno Pinho 7
- Jeff 5
- Peter Jackson 5
The wingers chipped in with a lot of assists. The absence of a left back is telling that the formation wasn’t really clicking on the flanks. Something to address next season.
- Ramiro Denis (DL) 7.36
- Peter Jackson (DR) 7.36
- KT (AML) 7.36
- Cedric Kinsombi (MC) 7.30
- Jiri Kraut (DC) 7.25
- Ricardo Goossens (DC) 7.25
The AVR stats were actually quite pleasing. Everyone I considered a ‘regular’ got 7.00+ apart from Paul Schouten, which again demonstrates a need for a strong DM next year. That’s my main aim in the transfer market. Schouten himself has opted to sign for PSV Eindhoven.
I’ll run through the summer transfers next time but suffice to say there’s a lot incoming as I chased players whose contracts were expiring. Some of the older guard are done here; Coppens has agreed to leave, Ruben Neves is retiring, Haland and Kraut are about to be gone too. Marcel Lange has an offer on him. There’s a lot going on.